Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Release your inner child

While researching for the last assignment of the year, I was looking through D.School Bootcamp Bootleg handbook that was recommended to us at the start of the year. Forgetting how much useful information was in it, one of the ideas discussed is one I would like to apply to future projects.

A Beginner's mindset. As we grow up we look at things in a more complex way. Moving through life we head through a series of experiences that can determine our character and in turn affect how we interpret things. Picking up stereotypes and biased opinions due to the surroundings we grow up in, by the time we reach maturity we have so many opinions and ideas swirling our heads it can be hard to distinguish what is actually true or false. These thoughts should not be disregarded but it is important that when designing you understand that these are your opinions and are not necessarily what others think too.

According to the handbook when assuming a beginner's mindset there are 5 rules to adhere to...
1. Don't Judge. Using techniques such as observations will allow you watch users but it is important not to influence or interfere with how they behave and react.
2. Question everything. Why? Exactly. Never before would I have classed my younger cousin, who at age two had a fascination with the word why?, to have the creative mind. Why, indeed. It is our job as designers to question everything. Even things that make sense to us might not make sense to our clients. It is important that we gain a true representation of what a client wants and by not asking obvious questions we may miss something very significant and assume.
3. Be truly curious. As a child I can remember touching and pulling at everything, so what happened to that curious child? We learn not to touch in case we break. This restraint pulls our prying hands back but what we should do is try and shake these ties off and start to wonder more.
4. Find patterns. Reoccurring themes can sometimes occur between clients and it is useful to think about how these ideas can intercross with one another - think how you might apply these to different projects.
5. Listen. Relax and just take in what the client is saying. Absorb everything and don’t get distracted. Watch how they talk about things and how they say things, do they talk passionately? How do they express what they are trying to say? All these factors will differ depending on each client and it is important to understand them fully and interpret what they are trying to say.

Next time you have a client, shake off all those burdens and let that inner child of yours escape!

With thanks:
D.School Bootcamp Bootleg handbook

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Research Proposal (5a)

As an Interior and Environmental Designer it is important to consider many aspects when designing. With many factors contributing to the overall experience of a space, context and behaviour of humans play a crucial part in how we react in a specific area requiring extensive research when trying to understand this idea. Reviewing the work I completed in first semester which primarily stemmed from Gladwell (2000) The Power of Context (Part 1), it is important to understand how the methods I have learnt over the past year could be applied to gain a deeper understanding of the topic.

Observing people going about their everyday lives we can try and tap into what physical and social features act as stimuli in provoking a certain response. Factors such as location and tolerance levels play a central role in trying to understand how a community works. Whether you are located in a rural or city region, it will have affected certain aspects of your life. For example how might you respond to a situation, positively or negatively? Removing someone from a familiar context and placing them in an alien one can cause a dramatic change in mood, with people becoming nervous and feeling vulnerable. Trying to do this without anyone becoming suspicious is hard and people might not act naturally but it something that
Bronfenbrenner (1979) feels is significant when arguing an individual’s reaction to different contexts. When studying an area it is important to listen to the locals. They live there all the time and know about occurrences in the area that you yourself might not pick up on. Using this technique when studying different areas, could allow you to compare the results and allow you to construct key questions that could be asked if interviewing people.

Interviewing people in different locations would either provide an honest response or a biased one. Careful consideration of questions that covered a broad area would narrow the chance for one sided views and with a certain wording could provoke a certain response from an individual. It would be important that a variation on the interviews took place, families, couples and singles as each group would have a different stance of the questions being asked. Asking people questions in groups could prove both advantageous and disadvantageous as there would be a danger that individuals could be influenced. Performing interviews on people with a mixture of ages would prove valuable to gaining an insight into a community from a wide scope of people as different age groups will have different opinions on the area and it is important to consider all angles of the argument. With age comes experience but this does not mean to say that young people should be disregarded, everyone in the community is interacting with the space at a different level. Similarly, this technique should be adhered to if you were to ever interview people from more than one neighbourhood. Taylor, R. B. (1996) suggests that we have to consider the different threats each area poses and when creating the questions a large variation has to exist to gain a maximum level of awareness.

Visual research can be very effective, especially as some people respond better to this technique. Asking people to look at pictures that have been picked specifically can allow you to understand how people see things in a community, e.g. pictures of graffiti, maintained gardens, thugs, tidy streets, which might stir personal responses from some participants. Again as mentioned in other researching methods a mixture of participants, age, sex and race, could all have a varying effect on the data obtained. Changing factors such as the way the images are presented to individuals and the order they are received should all be consider when analysing the results. The use of images is less intimidating than interviews and some people may find it easier to open up and discuss things more with sometimes images causing catalytic reactions. As Barthes argues “all images are polysemous” the danger that people would discuss different things could distract you from your original objective.

Making use of the visual side of the research, taking photographs of an area provides a still snapshot at that given time. Annotating these still frames can allow you to spot things over a certain period of time and with everything frozen it is easier to notice something than it would ever be when observing. With areas constantly changing, these images can be compared over a period of time and with change being such a visual element, it would be hard to distinguish these changes say from a piece of text or a recording. Likewise with video recordings, you could observe in a visual respect with the one difference being that you could see more of how people interact with the space. Stopping, rewinding, slowing down and watching repeatedly can allow you to spend as much time looking at the observations you have captured. Watching things repeatedly lets the observations made be more accurate, with a high chance of seeing something new everytime you can ‘wring’ the footage as much as possible. Conducting a meticulous study with similar aspects,
Barker, R.G. & Wright, H. (1955) claim “…the behaviour setting provided information in which allowed explanations for the behaviour observed. Individuals move through a wide range of behaviour settings each day, and it is not personality traits which control behaviour”.

Using crime rates along with visual evidence of an area could provide a comparison method. Areas with high crime rates could be scanned for stereotypical features of a ‘bad’ neighbourhood such as graffiti, broken windows, etc but the only danger with this is that you may unintentionally look for these common traits rendering the findings a little inaccurate. Researching into some of the crime prevention schemes that run in certain areas might prove useful with one such scheme being introduced in Kent.
Muir, H (2009) describes the scheme as “A pioneering drive by one of Britain's biggest police forces to tackle antisocial behaviour and low-level offending is being linked to a massive reduction in crime and people's fear of crime”, bearing this in mind, would the opinions of a community change if crime was reduced?

Bringing together all the research gathered, it is important to consider some factors when analysing the results; influences, individuals, location, age, personality, upbringing, etc as these will all have a bearing factor on how an individual has reacted. Other influential factors include home, school and neighbourhood which have shaped massively how we respond to something but by conducting a large number of experiments it would allow stronger conclusions to be drawn from results and allow points to be backed up with researched evidence. Although up-to-date sources like newspapers such as the Guardian and articles on the topic report facts the results that you will have collated are relevant to the area in which you want to specialise in.


Bronfenbrenner, U 1979,
The ecology of human development, MA: Harvard University Press, Cambridge

Gladwell, M 2000, The Tipping Point, Little, Brown, Great Britain

Innis, R.E 1985, Semiotics: an introductory anthology, advances in semiotics,
Bloomington Indianna University Press

Muir, H 2009,
Kent police attribute massive reduction in crime to neighbourhood teams, The Guardian, viewed 22 March 2010, <>

Taylor, R. B. 1996, ‘Neighbourhood responses to disorder and local attachments: the systemic model of attachment, social disorganization, and neighbourhood use valu
e’, Sociological Forum, vol. 11, no.1, pp. 41-74.

Review (5b)

New techniques that I have learnt over the past year have proven invaluable to my skill set and will prove useful in future projects. Integrating these additional primary and secondary research methods would have helped me undergo the brief in a slightly different way and revisiting the project, I can review the progress I made but also understand how I could have applied these new methods.

Sustainability project: Remodel a house incorporating a living and working space for client, Emma Fraser.

Initially sitting down with the client and discussing the brief would have allowed both of us to raise any concerns. Communicating with each other initially and understanding Emma’s needs would have created a strong relationship that would have proven beneficial for the duration of the project and allowed me to clearly grasp the client’s requirements. Failing to discuss the brief with Emma, I interpreted things differently to how they were implied which had implications on my final solution; I learnt the hard way that asking lots of questions at this stage is crucial!

Researching for the project, I tended to stick to one or two sources affecting how I intended to design the house (Moskow, K. (2008) Sustainable facilities. United States of America:McGraw-Hill companies ltd and Hadid, Z (2006) Zaha Hadid. Germany: Cantz). Obtaining research from different sources would have provided me with large amounts of inspiration and reading relevant accounts of previous renovation projects would have proven useful in understanding common problems. In my opinion there can never be too much research and preparation is the key when trying to consider creative solutions to a brief.
Gathering up-to-date inspiration from magazines and websites such as, and would have provided a varied degree of stimulating design and would have aided me in my thought process. Brainstorming with these images and adding text would allow me to annotate and expand on initial thoughts, making use of ‘buzzwords’ to trigger ideas, allowing me to develop and start thinking more creatively. Brainstorming with others would have also been beneficial, allowing us to work collaboratively, exploit skill sets, feed off each other’s ideas and consult with one another over common issues.
A weakness of mine is latching onto ideas that I think will be ‘perfect’ in my design but in the end results in me trying to connect a space that doesn’t want to be connected. Trying to think realistically and consider whether this type of design would fit into the building is just as important as if the client wants it. A solution to this problem would have been to show Emma pictures of different spaces and asked what she liked and disliked in the image.

Using observations as a research method would have let me fully understand my client right from the beginning and would have saved me a lot of time in the designing process. Observing Emma carrying out her everyday work would have allowed me to understand what her needs were. Making use of drawings, photographs and text, I would have been able to note any instant thoughts and visit these at later stages, adding in anything I missed primarily. Annotating pictures and visually analysing the space she currently occupied would convey tastes, preferences and her personality that could be incorporated into the new design. Some design solutions that I did come up with were not what the client wanted and I think if I had paid more attention to the brief in the first place and increased the consultation that took place between us more time would have been saved in the long run. Creating mood boards at various stages and visually proposing design ideas to the client would allow her to interject her thoughts, adding what she liked and disliked. With the client not only feeling involved in the design there would be less chance that I would steer away from what Emma actually needed.

Another form of observing, shadowing the client, would have given me an insight into how she reacted with a space, an understanding of preferences she had, etc. Stepping away from being an Interior designer and creating a new job title, detective, digging deep and uncovering what it is that she really needed I could intelligently design specifically for her. Proposing a creative solution bearing in mind everything I knew about Emma was always my aim but with the use of more observations I feel the design could have been more successful as I would have understood her better. One disadvantage with shadowing is the fact that it can be quite obtrusive and can make people react abnormally which renders the data useless. Photographs, in this case, would probably be more helpful as the space could be captured but it would be important to take these photographs myself as the client may try and tidy up, not giving a true representation.

Understanding the client is critical and interviewing them would allow you to delve deeply. Asking a few questions when I visited the client, I always felt that I was asking questions that did not seem relevant; Do you eat breakfast? Do you like having friends over? Soon realizing though that these sort of questions allowed the client to open up to me, I wish I had created more ‘odd’ questions that I could then collate the results into data that would help me design a space responsive to the client. It would have been pointless though trying to ask Emma direct or closed questions, making it hard to take anything away from these. Relying on these questions to reveal something that you might have missed from other meetings with the client it is important to ask relevant questions; what room do you spend the most time in? Is there anything that you would not want? Also asking more serious questions like whether she intended on having a family would allow me to design a house not just for the present but also for the future. Family, friends and co-workers could also prove invaluable if interviewed as they may have been able to reveal things that the client wasn’t aware of herself, aiding the design. With reference to the Johari window, (Esposito, R Mcadoo, H & Scher, L 1978: 80) the model aims to help us understand how humans interact and would be useful to refer to when talking about Emma’s personality.

When presenting the final concept it is important that the client not only likes it but understands it. Collaborating with Emma and gaining feedback throughout the project would help create a design that ticks all the correct boxes but also one that the client wants. Compiling 12 weeks work in the final presentation requires great skill and should not only display milestones in the design and the problems overcome but the innovative solution. Applying this new skill set would allow me to uncover a whole new chapter as a designer and instead of just limiting my research to one method, utilising as many as possible will be helpful in gaining meaningful research that in turn would render the final outcome.


Esposito, R Mcadoo, H & Scher, L 1978, Journal of humanistic psychology, Sage, New York, vol. 18, pp. 79

Hadid, Z (2006) Zaha Hadid. Germany: Cantz

Moskow, K. (2008) Sustainable facilities. United States of America: McGraw-Hill companies ltd

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Making assumptions

Without trying to sound strange, I like watching people. Due to the fact that this semester our assignments have asked us to observe how people react, I have found myself watching people a lot more.

Today coming home from Dundee, I observed a lot of different types of behaviour. Everybody is unique and the behaviour I surveyed echoed this.

Driving along the dual carriageway, there had been a crash involving a car and a bus - the car coming off the worst. Almost everyone on the bus craned their necks to see what had happened and some tried to figure out what had happened, talking animatedly amongst other fellow passengers and making a connection over something so horrible. It was interesting watching those people who did not look though. Some glanced quickly and then diverted their gaze in another direction almost as if they were scared that they were going to see something that they did not want to see. Others looked straight ahead as if trying to block out the scene and pretend nothing had happened.
It was also interesting seeing how people reacted to the crash on the scene. With no Police or Paramedics it was clear that the crash had not long occurred and with no control in place, traffic started to move in an unusual fashion. Cars tried to bump up onto the central reservation and lorries tried to drive through the mucky fields - attempting anything to try and pass the wreckage. With no Police hold people seemed not to know what to do and acted out of character suggesting that the presence of Officers can have a calming affect on a situation.

Police are there to protect. When something occurs or someone reacts in a fashion that is seen as socially unacceptable they are the people we rely on to look after us. Randomly meeting and chatting with an old man and lady while waiting for another bus to my village I was told a story about a man who they had witnessed the previous day arguing with a crow. Shouting and cursing at this crow, the old man described how the manner in which the man was acting was having a disturbing affect on passers by and the Police removed the man to restore peace. Humans are notorious for being stuck in habits, do anything to disturb this pattern and the effects could be detrimental. Reminding me of the book 'The Tipping Point' where context was believed to be the main cause of a man named Bernie Goetz to attacking 4 youths, I tried to understand here how this idea could be related. With hundreds of people using the bus station each day, by not arresting this man, the message being sent out to others that his behaviour was acceptable may invite others to offend when they normally might not have implying that we are susceptible to abnormal stimuli.
Another factor of the story that interested me was the fact that the man arrested had an artificial leg which was on show due to his shorts he wore. Just coming into spring, it strikes me as being a little strange that this man was wearing shorts in the first place as it was not the warmest of days yesterday. Myself, I would have wanted to cover this up. The old man described him as being loud and tough looking and appearing to be drunk or on drugs. He also added that he appeared to be an ex solider who had fought in a war. It is all very easy for us to express our disgust but I cannot help but think that maybe that this was a plea, subconscious or not, for us to regard him. Possibly wanting to show us the effect the war had had on him with the drink or drugs being a reasonable explanation behind his behaviour. One thing I have learnt from this years Design Studies module though is never to assume! Some of the points I have mentioned could be complete nonsense but they have got me thinking about things...

Eventually when I finally got on the bus home the old man, lady and myself seemed to create a triangle on the bus in the positions we had chose to sit in. In Interiors there is a term known as the kitchen triangle where the sink, cooker and fridge should be in a triangle shape so as to create a regulated work flow, but in our case a level of connection?
With people hopping on and off at stops all the time most people on the bus will watch them curiously, regarding them until the get to their seat or the bus leaves them at their destination. It was interesting though when a man with a large tattoo covering his face got on the bus to see how the passengers around me behaved with some people reacting really strangely. Some moved to the edge of their seats so that he could not sit next to him and I even saw some people grip onto their bags a little tighter. What did they expect this man to be? With so many things being associated with tattoo's these people were conforming to the thing that most people do when they are unsure of something, fear... I bet if they had started speaking to this man he would have been perfectly normal and not some mad man that many people stereotyped him to be. Never judge a book by it's cover...

With thanks:

Monday, 22 March 2010

Social Value Groups

Although I knew society was divided into different categories, I was not aware that there were so many different levels!

Being introduced to certain demographic classification models, a basic understanding into the topic allowed to me think about how I could apply these to my class projects. Currently undertaking a project at the moment of restoring a house for a book conservator called Emma Fraser, I have found myself constantly in this project trying to think like the client. One way in which I have been doing this is by using massive A0 sheets of paper to basically let my mind run riot! Whenever an idea or thought comes into my head, it gets jotted down. Trying to understand the needs of my client has allowed me to try and remodel this house entirely based on thoughts and assumptions I have taken away from the client myself. This method has been particularly useful to me but it is important to realise that if this had been any other client, I may have had to undergone my thought process a little differently…

My crazy thoughts.

Looking at the model and the different groups that there is I would probably place the client in the traditionalist category (although it is hard to place her in any one category). Taking on board this new knowledge, I feel I was successfully able to identify the client as this label myself. Trying to incorporate original features with objects she has inherited herself, Emma strikes me as the sort of people who likes a mix of old and new…open to new design but comfortable with the old.

If say for example my client fell into the category of an Innovator, the design would change considerably. The characteristics of this person would be completely different and so the needs from the client would not require certain aspects that Emma needed. Described as ‘risk takers’, ‘setting own targets’ and ‘seeking new things’, the house could possibly take on an entirely different form and could be unrecognisable with a modern and abstract design to suit them. Ignoring some of the original features and replacing these with new and exciting concepts would provide the house with a modern makeover.

With a client falling into the Disconnected group in the table, the design again would be entirely different. Characteristics would include ‘detached’ ‘resentful’ and ‘ever present now’ and I sincerely hope I never have a client like this! For me this would be such a challenge to overcome but I suppose breaking down the characteristics and trying to apply them in certain ways to the design would be a challenge worth overcoming as undoubtedly you would have to leave your comfort zone and pick up many new techniques in this process.

It is important as designers to take into consideration clients needs and gain an understanding into their personality and the affects that will have on have on design. By trying to categorise your client, you are trying to fit them into a field that has characteristics that will hopefully be able to help aid you in your design process.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

How do magazines influence people's ideas of design and taste?

Thinking about this question in the first place I was stumped. Brainstorming the idea allowed me to loosen up and I soon found myself scrawling lots of questions and answers that I would like to find out. Answering some of the questions myself in my head, I was hoping that the way I interpreted them would be the way that others did too. Using my parent’s as guinea pigs, I asked them questions surrounding the topic – which proved quite successful. Scraping some questions and adding others, I was able to create a broader but focussed set of questions to gain an accurate set of answers.

Brainstorming the topic

Some examples of the questions I asked: If I were to give you £5 to spend in a newsagents, what would you buy? What do you buy a magazine/newspaper for? How would you describe yourself in 3 words? Apart from yourself who would you say that your children were influenced by?

Using both images and text, I planned to make the interview quite informal so as to make people comfortable when answering. Some were more relaxed than others though, and at times I was conscious of being watched when writing things down. Not wanting to distract, I decided to spend most of the interviews listening to what people had to say instead and interject with supplementary questions when necessary. At times when I asked a question and I felt that they were not being entirely honest, I decided to throw the same question in later on but word it slightly different. Most were happy to tell me then, suggesting that by presenting the question in a different way, people were more willing to divulge more.

Interviewing a real mixture of people, it proved useful in gaining a snippet into lots of different pockets of groups - the saying ‘no two are alike’ was so true here! I had someone who talked about their love of craft then someone who talked about their undying love for football, watching 40+ hours of it a week on television.

Television adverts friend’s comparison money role models music magazines shopping attitude tastes subliminal sponsors location kids Internet influences age family

Covering a lot of different sectors of the topic, I noticed that men were just as susceptible to influences as women - just not always by the same things. With all interviewees, I noticed that they seemed to have their own sense of style. Although they would be the first to disagree that they were influenced by a certain factor, for example the outfits that they had chosen to wear whether by their partner or for practicality reasons, there were certain things they listened to more than others. With most agreeing that they wore the clothes they wore for comfort, where had this idea of comfort come from? Was it individual? Or were the clothes being worn perceived to being comfortable from a magazine advert or from a friend? The list is endless. With 3/5 interviewees claiming that they had been influenced by a friend to buy an item of clothing, you could not help but wonder if they clothes they wore most of the time was due to a friend.

One thing I noticed a big difference between the sexes was their attitude towards shopping. Women seemed to embrace the idea that they were experts in this field where as men (and although most of them hated their outfits that their wives had chosen for them) seemed to let the women take over in this department. Indicating a lack of enthusiasm towards consumerism, I probed the men into why they took a step back with most agreeing that it would cause too many arguments to disagree with their wives. I wonder what a single man’s attitude would be to shopping? The two women agreed that they spent a lot of time shopping and although they didn’t like the idea of shopping itself they knew exactly how to compare prices and where they could get things cheaply. This for me implied that women might trust themselves with money more than their partners and preferred to keep track of their purchases. Probing the women, they told me that their husbands weren’t aware of the amount of money they spent on themselves and the family (maybe did know but just thought better of it to question them!)

It was clear that people were affected by factors such as price and friends when purchasing something. Although most denied price being an issue when I directly asked them this question, later questions allowed me to draw the conclusion that this was actually the case. One of the main talking points in the office once I had conducted the interviews was the cost of a holiday, with many people throwing in their own knowledge about prices and telling others where they could get things cheaper, it was clear that although people are not willing to admit, this sort of conversation suggests otherwise. People were much happier to admit that they had been influenced by friends than advertising giants, even though the latter probably played a bigger part in their life than they thought!

Until this assignment I had never noticed just how much advertising is a part of the beautiful game. One of the men that I interviewed stated he watched 40+ hours a week and seemed proud at the fact that he was not influenced in any way by adverting because he ‘did not watch the advert breaks ever’. Well, I disagree! Advertising is everywhere in football, not just in the commercial breaks, at the beginning and end of a program, advertising boards, match programs and even now the owners and companies that have bought into clubs are starting to steal more headlines than the clubs themselves. Right down to junior sides, advertising boards litter the pitch side and sponsors will appear on the strips – some a bit more ironic than others. Take my dad’s football team for example. Thornton Hibs JFC, hardly Inter Milan but with their ground nicknamed the San Siro, my dad likes to think that there are some similarities. There sponsor is Thornton Parish Church…now I’m not being funny but I’m sure the Man upstairs would not be impressed with his support to a team whose language is every bit as colourful as the rainbow!

My thought process

With everyone admitting that they spent more than £10 a month on magazines or newspapers, they were all at varying degrees exposing themselves to the competitive world we call the media. Preying on people, the adverts that are placed in magazines and newspapers are aimed at a specific audience. All admitting to buying products after they had appeared in magazines and some relied on reviews from other readers as the final push. 4/5 interviewee’s also admitted that they had bought a magazine because a certain celebrity had appeared in it, implying that celebrities, to a certain degree, can be very influential to our decision making.

Gaining an understanding in how people saw advertisements, I asked people to look at advertising images and telling me what they saw allowing them to free themselves from constraints they put on themselves (something that I am quite glad I did as people found it easier to take about visuals rather than try and put some things into words). Constantly looking for reassurance throughout the interview, here answers were exciting and people found it much easier to relax and say what they thought.

An interviewee undergoing the 'celebrity advertising knowledge'

Most people recognised the images that I presented them with, regardless of not whether they were male or female; men knew Cheryl Cole was a hair model for L’Oreal and women linked Wayne Rooney to being the face of Nike. I found that people recognised faces of those people, who for me, were easier to relate to. Cheryl Cole is perceived to be a down to earth Geordie girl and is someone that all girls aspire to be and guys aspire to be with! Wayne Rooney (although he was a blue and now a Manc) is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest players at the moment who young boys and men worship. With companies having their products being endorsed with these popular celebrities, they are certain to be successful. If we see someone we respect do something then we will copy but if a ‘face’ does something that we react badly to, just watch how fast a company drops them!

Overall the results gathered from the interview suggested that we can all be influenced in some way or another, with some being more effected than others. The levels in which we are exposed to vary depending on factors such as location, age, amount of television that is watched, magazines/newspapers that are read, children, but also for me the most important factor, the amount of time we allow ourselves to be exposed!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Marmite, a love-hate relationship?

The new Marmite?

Accepting the fact that people either love it or hate it, the ad agency behind the new Marmite campaign, DDB, have cleverly created 'spoof' ads playing on the ideas associated with the product. This brave decision has paid off and has got many people talking about the new campaign and even considering trying the new savoury cereal bar!

Intentionally taking the normal clichés, Marmite have tried to laugh in the faces of other campaigns and have played on the stereotypical advertising big sellers - child on the towels, man in the shower and thin perfume models - and used them in such a way that makes the cereal bars look normal. I thought this rebranding of Marmite tied in with what we had been discussing lately in lectures where companies try to reinvent themselves and create a new image. Acknowledging the fact that the product is not liked by all and that a new Marmite cereal bar seems rather strange, the context in which they are placed in makes the cereal bar seem rather normal.

With the hope that these new adverts will make people realise that the idea of a savoury cereal bar is not as bizarre as first thought, DDB have successfully created this tongue in cheek campaign that have people spending more than a few seconds glancing in the direction of the ad.

So do you love it or hate it?

With thanks:

Friday, 12 March 2010


I knew this lecture was going to be good when it begun with Beatles songs being played...

When I first read the title "Designers and Clients" I was a little unsure of what would actually be discussed and whether or not it would be interesting. Pleasantly surprised Emma Murphy, Graven Images, talked expressively about the company that she works for and the techniques used by herself and others when dealing with clients.

Something that particularly interested me was when she talked about branding and the issues surrounding that. Giving examples of some of the companies that she had worked with, she discussed some of the issues surrounding their company brands.
She stressed the importance of having a similar theme running through both the brand and the building/product, e.g. when a company brand claimed that they to be trustworthy but on visit to their office, the atmosphere created was not very inviting. Something which Emma and Graven Images changed, installing glass divides, the office felt immediately more appealing and engaging! These changes meant that the brand and company communicated the same ideas and reinforced clarity among it's customers.

As discussed many a time in previous blogs, advertising is something that is becoming increasingly more and more influential. With companies trying to appeal to people in a particular way, those opposing what they represent are constantly trying to 'sabotage' their image.

A good example of this is McDonalds...

When the film/documentary called "Supersize me" was appearing, many people were shocked with the hard hitting facts being revealed about McDonalds. Morgan Spurlock aimed to spend a month eating nothing but fast food from the McDonalds menu, intending to eat at least everything on it at least once. To begin with Spurlock was quite excited about receiving his meals but as time went on he soon became a little sick of it all and this started to show through his health. In the end Spurlock has to stop the experiment because the effects of the fast food were so detrimental to his health that he faced a high risk of suffering a heart attack. This had a damaging effect on McDonalds and as sales started to suffer, the company needed to rebrand itself...

Trying to recreate their image, McDonalds were trying to hit out at the critics who claimed them to be 'evil' and 'money grabbing' and were trying to show that they really did care about the people. An article that appeared in the Guardian "McDonald's goes green - but not all customers are lovin' it" talks about some of the schemes undergone to try and remodel themselves. Changing to healthier fats to cook in, redesigning the interiors and funding community projects, the company looked are rebuilding it's image and portraying itself in a more positive light. Judge for yourself if you think it has worked...can a cheetah really change it's spots?

Something I would like to thank Emma for though is talking about all the different skills she uses and for breaking down the idea of what a brief is in detail. It was refreshing to hear someone who works out in the big bad world in a design company talk about the skills they use and the processes she used to gather information - a lot of which are similar to the techniques we are using at the moment in our assignments.

With thanks:
Emma Murphy, Graven Images

Monday, 8 March 2010

Designing Out Crime

Something that particularly interests me is the way in which context, design and crime all intersect with one another so while reading through the Design Council website I came across a selection of case studies specialising in this topic.

Last semester when we had to undertake an investigation into a chapter from the Tipping Point, I chose the Power of Context, understanding some of the key ideas surrounding the topic. Talking about how things in our environment affect our behaviour due to social circumstances, upbringing, personality, etc I was interested in the way in which we are all subconsciously influenced. Looking at lots of different examples of crime prevention while researching this area, it was clear that only some designers were using their skills to address the problems, with some designers listening to people more than others. By designing something that was beneficial to them, many people are beginning to heed their advice.

Recently in one of our assignments I studied the power text can have on an individual - something that designers are using to publicise the dangers of crime to society. Images have a very powerful affect on us, proving we are very susceptible to some more than others. Graphic Designers are tapping into what we are most responsive to and are trying heighten the awareness we have of crime and some of the dangers attached to certain aspects of our everyday life, e.g. listening to our iPod. I am guilty of this, relying heavily on music I would hate to count the amount of hours a week I listen to it and although I am aware of crime I have never really thought that I would be a victim of it. Using images that we associate with crime RKCR/Y&R has use the colours black and yellow, triggering for most the image of the police tape, trying to warm naive people like me that crimes like this do occur.

RKCR/Y&R crime campaign

Using this image, I tried a small experiment removing the text to see whether the colours used were helpful. These posters are no doubt placed largely in public spaces, with most people only glimpsing at the poster and not really slowing to read what the it says, it is important that the message RKCR/Y&R are trying to portray is the message that we actually interpret. Sure enough the people that I asked were able to derive the message that the poster was about crime and iPod's, a test which RKCR/Y&R clearly would have had to carry out themselves.

Manilla Mac

Gaining inspiration from an advert Apple used to advertise the Apple MacBook Air, Manilla Mac created a laptop case that looked just like a document folder. When carrying this case suspicions wouldn't be aroused as to what was in the 'folder', disguising what could spur others on to commiting a crime. (Obviously you would need a laptop slim enough into fit the case!)

Although it is important to remember that we as designers won't be able to solve crime completely, we can all aim to try and help create spaces, services and products less vulnerable by creating innovative solutions.

With thanks:

Friday, 5 March 2010

Tubing it in London City

On a recent trip to London, I experienced the Underground for the first time and for someone who comes from a small village in Fife, using the tube was a steep learning curve!

Observations made at the station

With an average of 3.4 million people using the tube daily, I have to admit I did feel like a minority. People were constantly rushing by me, banging and barging to get through and with so many rules to remember, I found myself feeling slightly nervous! Being constantly reminded to keep to the right and to walk fast to keep out of everybody's way, this was an experience that I was not going to forget in a hurry.

With this many people using the tube a day, safety is surely one of the most important aspects but with little Police presence I struggled to see how it was safe. The whole system lacked any human interaction to be honest...You walked into the station, bought your ticket at a machine, put your ticket through a barrier, went on a lift, checked when the next tube was available on computerised boards, got on the tube, hear instructions over the tannoy, get off train, travel up escalators, put your ticket through another barrier then leave the station. I would struggle to count on one hand the amount of workers on duty there yet no one seemed to be causing trouble. Everybody seemed to accept that the whole system was about getting people from a to b as efficiently as possible.

Travelling the tube at different times of the day allowed a different insight into how it operated. With a lot of people using the tube to get to and from work, morning and evening times seemed the busiest. Although I soon changed my mind... Attending two football matches (Brazil v Republic Ireland, Emirates Stadium, attendance - 40,082. England v Egypt, Wembley Stadium, attendance - 80,602) it really put into perspective just how heavily the network was relied on with the term "Sardines in a can" being the most suitable phrase here. I was up close and personal with complete strangers and I'm just thankful that I got stuck next to people who were familiar with soap and water!

Attending the football games gave me an insight into how the Police controlled the thousands of people that tried to use the tube at once. I have to say that I felt safer among the 80,000+ than the Emirates supporters, purely because of the sheer volume of Police presence at Wembley. Mounted Police and the standing officers managed to keep the large crowd calm and everyone seemed to accept that we were getting to the tube as quickly as possible. The tube at Arsenal did not feel as safe due to the fact that the Police were trying to divide people onto two different lines of the tube so people had to push past trying to get to the correct side. Herding us into pens, some people were able to skip over the barriers and get in front of those who were waiting patiently. Getting onto the tube was even easier - the ticket barriers were all just left open allowing people to stream through and down onto the platforms. For me the Police at Wembley seemed to be more prepared than those at the Emirates which in turn I feel had a calming affect on the crowd. Climbing the hundreds of steps to the station at Wembley, people did not try and run or push past each other, everyone kept the same pace.

Relying heavily on stairs to take people from the different levels, one thing that struck me was that the tube didn't seem to be that accessible to people with disabilities. Seeing a blind woman and a wheel chair user trying to interact with the surroundings really put things into perspective for me. So many people pushed past them and did not treat them any differently than the other users around them. It strikes me that the only support the blind women received was the tactile paving at the edge of the platform! She struggled to get past people and her stick was kicked out the way (not intentionally, I hope) as she tried to leave the station. I lost her after a while but I'm sure that she would have had to rely on other passengers helping her on the lift, then at the ticket barriers. The design of the Underground really didn't take her needs into consideration, but as a minority should you not still be taken into consideration?
The woman in the wheelchair found it hard to gain access through the large crowds and even when she was trying to get from one place to another, she was no Moses! People still thought that she would skip in front of them in the queue and their stubbornness meant that she had to try and go around them - not an easy task I'm sure when you are in a wheelchair. Although wider ticket barriers had been installed and the lifts gave her access to the platform, when she reached the platform she had to rely on someone to help her with the gap and height difference between the platform edge and the train - she could not get onto the carriage herself. Most public services are now installed with measures to help those in wheelchairs but there was nothing that I could see here to help her. She was drawing attention to herself when I'm sure she just wanted to make the journey as quickly as she could.

I tended to stick out like a sore thumb on the tube, thanks to the broad Scottish accent and my Liverpool FC jacket which led to a few funny encounters!
One of these included a chat with an Irish man who was attending the football at the Emirates and who took it upon himself to give advice on the best stop to get off at and where we should sit. This encounter was so random and we ended up speaking about each other's lives and what we did. Not a common occurrence on a system that seems to forget all about the rules of communicating.
Another came on the way back from Wembley in the afternoon after buying tickets for that night's game. A bunch of school boys who had just played a football game were all arguing about what football team they supported and right on cue I step on with my jacket. You can only imagine what happened next...I was the butt of their jokes! They got a lot of attention from other travellers but everyone seemed to be laughing at their immature youth - even the teacher just accepted this was boys being boys!
It was amazing how slight differences could attract attention that other's did not receive, I wonder if I hadn't have spoke much or wore my jacket would I have still had the same encounters?

Most of the time spent on the tube was spent in silence. People fought hard not draw attention to themselves and tried to just blend into the background. Hiding behind broadsheets and immersing themselves in their music, people spent most time looking at the floor or the roof - most seemed scared to look at others in case they got caught looking. Being in such a small space with such a large amount of people I found it hard not to look! There was so many different characters travelling on the tube, I found myself playing a game trying to guess what they were doing in London and where they were going using clothing and bags as clues... This probably had something to do with the fact that I was there to observe, maybe if I had just been travelling normally without this assignment into my mind I might have just fallen into a zombie like trance, jumping on and off the tube like everyone else.

The vast amount of advertising that takes place within the network surprised me. With most people spending very little time there, at first I thought it was a waste of money companies spending money to put up posters in this location but the more I observed the more clever I thought they were. With no mobile phone network in the stations, people needed something to do when they were waiting on the platform. Although a lot of people did have books or newspapers to read instead, it was interesting to watch that most people stopped and looked at the adverts while waiting for the next tube to come. Someone has clearly studied the best place to put the adverts because they only appeared in the places that people would spend the most time waiting. Not once did I see a poster in parts of the station that you walked through quickly, they were placed by places like the ticket machines, on the lift and on the platform...clever! I'm not saying that sales of a product would have went through the roof because of the placement of posters in the tube stations but I do think more people would have read them there than they would have done on the streets - they had a bit more time to understand what was being advertised than otherwise would have been obtained from a quick glance while running through the streets.

For me, this assignment proved that location was the key factor in my observations. Watching people going about their everyday life naturally really did show me how people reacted to their surroundings. It also allowed me to pose myself questions such as, would people react differently if the Underground wasn't in London? Do people block out their surroundings? Does it make them react any differently to normal/out of character?etc.

Speaking about my experiences with others when I got back from London, many people that I spoke to had never thought about some of the things I shared with them. By taking notes, I was understanding more about what I was observing suggesting that I was seeing things I would never normally have noticed. Actually taking time to sit down in the Underground while others were rushing about around me, I was looking more into what I was seeing. Listening to people talk about their experiences it was clear that the main idea reoccurring was that we had all experienced the attitudes adopted by people travelling the tube. Now I'm sure many people are really nice but put them in this sort of context and they seem to have a personality change, something I myself am guilty of. At the beginning of the week I was being civil letting people through and saying sorry if I bashed into people but by the end of the week I am ashamed to say that I gave up. I was so sick of people just treating me like I was invisible, I ended up just falling into the stereotypical tube traveller: rude and inconsiderate! Other people I spoke to also felt the same way so why is it that we adopted this new way of behaving?

Thinking back to last semester when I read the Tipping Point, with my favourite chapter being the Power of Context, it was interesting to see whether the ideas that Gladwell discussed about the subway in New York were similar. Something that struck me though that Gladwell talked about being a significant factor was vandalism and littering - something there was very little of in and on the Underground. Gladwell presents examples where these small things resulted in crime, e.g. Bernie Goetz, so with very little of this present in the stations, is this a reason why I never witnessed any crimes?

A Matter of Taste

Define taste.

Hard, isn't it?

Looking it up in a dictionary, I was presented with over 20 different definitions. Just like the meaning, the word has so many different ideas attached to it, one of these being to perceive in any way. With such a broad meaning comes a large number of talking points. Why do we like something when others dislike the same thing? Why do we choose to follow a trend while others ignore? What is good and bad taste?

Breaking taste down into a number of categories, I was able to understand some of the ideas behind it.

We talked initially about language and the way in which we use it and interpret it, with a useful example being that of a designer and client. As designers there is nothing more frustrating trying to explain your idea to someone and them staring back at you blankly, completely missing the point and not understanding what you mean but why should they understand us though, if we don't understand them fully? Why do we feel the need to use all the design jargon that we have learnt and use it in such a context that people do not understand a word. A technique I find useful when presentations are looming is to 'perform' my crit to my parents, who bless are not design minded, but who are however critical. If they don't understand what I am babbling on about they will tell me so that I can look at how I can present the idea in a more understandable way. We are all, thankfully, not the same.

Immanuel Kant disputed that this was not the case, stating that 'Beauty is truth' he argued that people saw things in the same way. Bearing in mind though that Kant lived in 18th century, I suppose this claim is understandable as people did not have the same freedom of speech we have now.

Over the century's taste has evolved into something in which we can express power and status through. Something that Thorstein Veblen worked hard to prove was that behaviour was both socially and individually determined, with the wealthiest people trying to distinguish themselves from the rest. Choosing to buy things that did not conform with the popular taste, it was easy to see who had money and those that did not. An example of this trend being with French women, whose hair became the stage of boasting. The higher and weirder looking the hair the better - it didn't matter that this 'mess' took most of the day to build, it was the idea behind it. Showing that they didn't have to do anything, these woman flaunted the fact that they could afford to spend all day getting their hair done.

With these new trends though comes imitation and as quick as something comes into fashion, it can go straight back out. Trendsetters can kick start a cycle that others latch onto in the bid to become trendy but when too many people are similar to the trendsetter their taste changes and they start a new trend...a vicious circle.

It can be argued that taste is "driven by social factors" which I totally agree with. Depending on where you are in the country, you can (and taking fashion for example) see the different trends. While in London this week, it was clear that most of the trends above the border in Scotland are similar but there are subtle differences too, maybe larger stores or more access to the boutiques allow people to splurge out on designer pieces or could it be that they are more susceptible to celebrity influences down South? The list is endless...

People express their taste through a variety of ways and something that psychologist Sam Gosling talks about in his book 'Snoop' is some of the studies that he has conducted in understanding the way people present things like their music collection to others. He talks about how people display their music in such a way it is the first thing people notice when they visit and how we are guilty of deciding if we like a person or not purely on this factor. Talking about how some people place things in amongst other belongings so that we appear in a different way to others, Gosling discusses how sometimes we seek approval from others and deliberately place things to catch the eye of others - the judgements in which we take away is different depending on our gender.

From a young age girls are presented with a language which shapes them as females. Reading magazines as soon as they are able to has led to the accidental brainwash into females distinguishing what is 'good' and 'bad' taste. Magazines aimed at women still try to 'educate' us in matters and some people almost refer to these as The Bible. Boys lack the ability to describe like girls, probably due to the fact that they were not presented with trends from such a young age the same way girls were. Even now, an item that appears in a women's magazine can be in a men's magazine but be phrased in a completely different language.

Like Disney, magazines are used in educating us on how we should be as women. Bombarded with visuals and words we are constantly being told how to behave and generally conduct ourselves, something I had never really thought about. I don't personally read glossy magazines but I do know what sort of things appear in them and now more and more appear to have the latest diets on the front pages - leading women to think that they have to be skinny to be happy.

Exposing ourselves to these magazines, we are educating ourselves in different trends and are gaining an insight into what defines good and bad taste. We find it much easier to describe good taste rather than bad but is something that we have our upbringing on magazines to thank for, amongst other factors. Trying to define an individual taste is hard but I suppose my new definition of taste is that it is something that we all have the ability to express but it is how we choose to define it that is important.

With thanks: